It’s crazy to think that after 10 years of diet research and personal experiments, I’m pretty much back to where I started. I’ve followed enough nutrition and fitness gurus down rabbit holes to realize that they all lead to the same place. They lead back to me. I think I’m finally okay with the fact that I’m the one who’s responsible for my health. So I guess I’ve learned a little. I’m the one who has to listen to my body’s subtle messages. I’m the one who decides what to eat when I sit down in front of a menu.
While writing Kale and Coffee, I kept thinking about how I could help share this non-health-guru-worshiping message. The only thing that kept coming up for me was to tell my own story and be as vulnerable as I had to be — not what you’d usually find in the latest diet book. So I took a risk. This may not seem that divergent, but in some ways it is. We don’t tell enough stories. We’re lost in the dopamine rush of popular news and memes. It’s a shallow way to consume information — while stories on the other hand, written from the heart, have always been a way to connect deeply. Even in a silly little health book, a story can move someone with much more power than a quote from an expert or a scientific citation. It seems like the new conversation is actually the oldest conversation known to man — the story. This is how we can go deeper and understand each other better, without telling anyone what to do or how to do it. This is the anti-guru approach. And you can be a part of it too. To become a part of this growing group of modern storytellers, you don’t have to be an author, have a website, or speak in public. You just have to know the answer to these three questions: what’s your story, how can you be more vulnerable, and then, of course, who can you tell it to.
Kale and Coffee: A Renegade’s Guide to Health, Happiness & Longevity (Excerpt):
My extreme diet was so “healthy” that I made myself sick. About three years in, I started to notice that I was increasingly lethargic and was having trouble getting out of bed. In fact, I would wake up in the morning and stare at the ceiling, wondering if I was seriously ill: chronic fatigue, maybe, or multiple sclerosis, or cancer. After wondering for a while, I’d turn over and go back to sleep, not waking up again until 10 or 11 or even noon.
A few friends and family members suggested that the fatigue might be related to what I was eating, but I was so deeply indoctrinated in the cult of dietary purity that I wasn’t willing to entertain their theories. It wasn’t until I met a renaissance man of sorts, Dr. James E. Williams, that I listened to advice I didn’t want to hear.
James is doctor of oriental medicine, board certified in naturopathic medicine, with a practice in Sarasota, Florida. He and I became close during an RV trip, and Annmarie and I spent time with him in Peru and at his home in Florida. James is the type of guy who can explain in fascinating detail how a viral infection can change your DNA, then follow with a story about dancing all night at a club in Havana, Cuba, while drinking brown rum and smoking local cigars.
I remember the day when he gave me the news that no vegan ever wants to hear: “Your adrenals are in deep fatigue. It’s because of your diet. You might consider eating some animal protein—meat, fish, fowl, dairy.”
In the silence after he spoke, I imagined that I heard a cow’s sad moo off in the distance. Another vegan was being coaxed off the wagon. But what James said wasn’t just an opinion: he had tested dozens of my blood markers. Unlike my friends and family who had warned me about my vegan diet, James believed in science. He didn’t advise on a hunch.
The numbers on half a dozen pages of lab reports didn’t lie. As James ran through his own internal checklist, based on 30 years of practice, he read me in detail. I was shocked he could know so much about how I felt.
“I’m guessing you feel pretty lethargic, yes? Low sex drive? How about aggression? Do you have feelings of anxiety? Do you lash out with anger at things that you never did before?”
He nailed some two dozen or more symptoms, but he only scratched the surface of what I was feeling emotionally. I was scared. My father died of brain cancer when I was two years old. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was just out of high school. She survived, but two out of two parents with cancer aren’t great odds. You could say I got into this health thing because of what my parents went through. I wondered if feeling this way and continuing to eat this way would lead to a similar diagnosis.
What I had been doing clearly wasn’t working. All the lessons about super-foods, supplements, food combining, macronutrient balance, and more that I had picked up from numerous health gurus had produced the opposite results from what they were supposed to. Instead of being a superman, I had hormone levels lower than most men 50 years my senior. I wasn’t working properly.
I also felt like a fake. Everything I had taught our blog readers and YouTube viewers had brought me here. Had they followed my advice and were they feeling the same way? I was terrified that everything I had published on the Internet was ridiculously wrong.
So what did I do?
I did what any person would do who felt duped and scared after starting a diet he couldn’t maintain. I quit. I quit raw food. I quit being a vegan. I gave up on everything. I de-stricted my diet and set myself free.
[Editor’s Note: “Kale and Coffee is the often hilarious, picaresque tale of how Gianni went from skinny, raw-food vegan faddist to bloated, out-of=shape omnivore before finding the middle road to an imperfectly healthy and (more) balanced life.” Learn more and get your copy at http://book.renegadehealth.com]